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6: Scary Word - Orthodox

04/12/2019 03:00:00 PM


Rabbi Elie Karfunkel

Look at this, we have a beautiful Centre, which stands for something special. 

But I have a little secret to tell you. We also still have an elephant in the room.

For many years, I hid this secret. You see, I am Orthodox and so are the standards at the Centre. There, I said it. 

Now, this is actually a scary thing to say, because who in Forest Hill would want to be associated with an Orthodox place? My friends might start thinking I am getting religious. Heaven forbid people might start cracking jokes, and referring to me as “The Rabbi.”

Oh, did I tell you that we also have separate seating? Why did we even open up in Forest Hill? Over here, you have no better chance of success than New Coke did in 1985, or perhaps the “Funky Purple” ketchup flavour from Heinz.

For many years I told people that we are “traditional” or some other ambiguous word. I felt that the term Orthodox was offensive to people and was afraid to use it. I thought people would be put off by it with all their preconceived notions and stereotypes. 

While I can't say that everyone in the Village “gets” what we do, I do think we are changing opinions. Maybe not overnight, but along the way, for sure. 

It means so much to me when people join here after not having been to an Orthodox place their whole life. It's pretty neat.

The real truth is I don't like the word Orthodox for another reason: it implies a destination. 

So you're Orthodox—big deal. Like a special fraternity, some badge that guarantees HaShem’s admiration. We all know that is completely false. 

In my mind, there are only two types of Jews: those who are of Hungarian descent, and those who are not. 

Kidding aside, there are "Growing Jews" and there are “Static Jews.” Truth be told, I myself oscillate between these two camps.  

I think that we are living in a world of two trends. The trend just to go with the flow, and the trend to buck that flow and to do something counter-cultural, that’s authentic and requiring of effort.

Walking into the Albert and Temmy Latner Forest Hill Jewish Centre is a daunting move for many. As an “FFB,” or “Frum From Birth,” I will never appreciate how intimidating the steps in front are to ascend, I will never appreciate how scary it is to barely know how to read Hebrew while sitting next to someone who does it with ease.

However, once in the doors, once seated in the pew, the few that make that journey can tap into their inner Robert Frost. And know that they took the road less travelled by.

And that has made all the difference, elephant and all.

Mon, July 15 2024 9 Tammuz 5784